News Feature | May 10, 2019

New York To Convert Poo To Fuel

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

Some New Yorkers will soon be utilizing their own personal byproducts as fuel thanks to an innovative wastewater reuse project in the city.

“The poop of Big Apple residents is being turned into methane at Brooklyn’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant — and the gas will now be used to fuel up to 5,000 local homes,” according to the New York Post. “The decade-in-the-making farts-to-fuel project — a joint venture between the city Department of Environmental Protection and National Grid — is slated to be up and running by the end of the year.”

National Grid, a natural gas and electricity provider, will capture excess methane at the wastewater treatment plant and remove the moisture and carbon dioxide, thus producing higher-quality methane that can be used to fuel households. Food waste from local hotels and restaurants totaling 130 tons will also be leveraged for the project.

Officials hope that the project will save an equivalent of 19,000 cars’ worth of carbon emissions per year, according to the Post.

“We’re basically building a fancy filter,” said Donald Chahbazpour, gas utility of the future director for National Grid said, per The Blaze. “It’s indistinguishable from a molecular perspective [to traditional methane]. The only difference is the feedstock is us.”

Though the project is a first for New Yorkers, the concept of reusing wastewater byproducts is not novel. Wastewater treatment operations, also known as wastewater reuse facilities, have been harvesting and reselling biosolids as fertilizer for years. In Southern California, power utilities are also looking to expand the conversion of wastewater methane into gas for use by consumers.

It all appears to be part of increasing efforts around the country to improve sustainability and cut back on energy use. Wastewater offers a clear opportunity to leverage natural byproducts and put them to good use. Though it hasn’t even launched yet, the methane project in New York is already expected to expand.

“While the Greenpoint facility is the city’s only human-wind farm for now, Chahbazpour said officials are hoping the project will extend to its 13 other wastewater plants in the future,” according to the Post.

To read more about how wastewater operations reuse their byproducts, visit Water Online’s Sludge And Biosolids Processing Solutions Center.